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Urbanna asks HRSD to re-use wastewater

by Tom Chillemi

It may be decades before there is no treated wastewater in Urbanna Creek, but the Urbanna Town Council took the first step toward an effluent-free creek on Monday.

Council approved a resolution asking the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD), which owns the Urbanna wastewater treatment plant, to design a modification or replacement to the existing plant so its treated wastewater can be re-used, possibly to irrigate land.

Known as “land application,” the disposal method puts effluent nutrients, which are bad for marine life, into the earth where they are good for plants that use them as fertilizer.

Jim Pyne, chief of the Small Communities Division of HRSD, told council on Monday that a land application study would have to be done. Also, the extra cost of any treatment or disposal that is not required by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) would have to be paid by the town.

Pyne said HRSD “would be very interested” in a land application system, or water re-use, to keep the town’s effluent from the creek—provided it is economically viable.

Upgrading the plant to meet a 2011 nutrient reduction mandate would cost over $3 million, or $240,000 a year in debt service, Pyne said. The current annual sewer revenue from Urbanna’s customers is a little over $200,000. “It would be a doubling of the rate,” he said.

Nutrient “credits” could be purchased at $2 per pound of nitrogen, and HRSD could buy credits for up to 1,000 pounds of nitrogen for the Urbanna plant. Buying credits (avoiding the expense of nutrient reduction) would allow HRSD to postpone upgrading the plant to meet the 2011 state standards, but is only “a short term solution,” said Pyne.

Disposing of the effluent on land would save the cost of the nutrient removal upgrades, it was indicated.

Phosphorus removal can be done easier and is currently being done at HRSD’s Mathews and King William plants.

The town’s resolution to stop pollution comes as Middlesex County is seeking a permit to discharge up to 39,900 gallons of treated wastewater per day into the headwaters of Urbanna Creek from a treatment plant to be built in Saluda. The town has opposed the additional discharge.

“It’s very difficult to try to hold accountable another area that [wants to dump] into Urbanna Creek when we are creating our own problems there,” said town council member Janet Smith.

Smith said council is hoping that its resolution might start the process toward a cleaner creek.

Water re-use could be a way to turn waste into a product, said Smith.

Pyne responded, “Some form of water re-use is what we have been trying to encourage for several years.” He said HRSD’s plant at Yorktown re-uses 500,000 gallons per day at a petroleum refinery.

A final decision by the State Water Control Board on the proposed Saluda sewage treatment plant could come in late April.

posted 02.26.2009

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